In many ways, Lucky You is an ode to those people who make their living playing poker. Given how the popularity of professional poker has exploded the last few years around the annual World Series of Poker, you probably expected more movies about the famous gambling game. Surprisingly there haven't been that many.
And if you were going to make a mainstream Hollywood movie about poker, you’d center it around the 2003 World Series and make it as tension-filled as the televised version shown on ESPN. When you first heard Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile) would direct a movie about poker, that’s probably what you thought Lucky You was going to be.
But Hanson has a deeper affection for those week-in, week-out professionals, and his recent movie is a nod to them. Eric Bana (Troy, Munich) plays Huck Cheever, a professional poker player and son of legendary two-time World Series champion L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall). Huck has two styles of poker play: one where he plays the smart odds and wins, and the other where he plays the emotional odds and loses. The former gets him respect from the other players, while the latter loses him respect from his father.
A few days before the World Series, Huck still doesn’t have a seat at the main event and tries in vain to come up with the money. During his efforts, he meets Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore). On the outside, Billie just seems to be a random girl — eventually she is found to be the little sister of a former girlfriend (Debra Messing) — that Huck is interested in. But Billie is much more to Huck than that. She’s different than the other women in Las Vegas, and doesn’t immediately fall for Huck’s smoothness. And in Sin City, Billie has no sin.
Huck’s father says it best about him: “You play cards the way you should lead your life. And you lead your life the way you should play cards.” Huck lives his life in a series of highs and lows, and more often than not Huck is at a low, barely scraping by and pawning his possessions to keep going. He doesn’t realize that life and poker can be played the same way. He needs to finally understand when to walk away and what to hold on to.